« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
to continue the colonies entirely dependent for all their merchandise on the parent state, by preventing them from providing for theniselves. By this narrow and selfish policy the wants of the colonies were multiplied, and by a kindred arrangement these wants could be supplied by Spain alone.
Not a vessel belonging to the colonies could enter any foreign port on the globe; the Spanish ports themselves were not open to colonial vessels. Indeed, they were prohibited from going to neighboring provinces only under the most intolerable restrictions. Confiscation and death were the dreadful penalty inflicted for trading with any other nation. Nor was this exclusiveness confined to mercantile transactions, it reached to the privilege of social intercourse. No foreigner could even enter the colonies without special permission from the highest authorities. Thus were they cut off from all intercourse with the human race, little less than if located on another planet; and to secure the perpetuity of this state of insulation and vassalage, almost every important office in South America was filled by natives of Spain, or such as had been sent there to be educated under the shade of the throne.
In examining the records of official appointments in Spanish America, which extend through three hundred years, we find, of the one hundred and sixty viceroys, and of the five hundred and eighty captain-generals, governors, and presidents of the royal audiences, only eighteen which were not born in Spain ; and this small minority had passed several years in the parent state, and become deeply imbued with its spirit of oppression. Thus, from the period of the conquest up to that of the revolution, these provinces were under the sway of foreign officers, who had no interest to consult but that of their family, and no favor to court but that of their trans. atlantic sovereign. And here, where no officer selt himself amenable to the people, where the only being on earth to whom he was responsible was located in the old world, what could be expected but the deepest corruption and the most high-handed oppression ! Such, in fact, was the result.
Perhaps modern times furnish not a single instance of an administration so thoroughly corrupt in all its branches, and in all its operations, as was that in South America prior to the revolution. Under such a system, tyrannical in its nature, and pressed into purposes of self-aggrandizement by all its functionaries, what but the utmost cruelty could fall to the lot of the enslaved Indians ! Their very groans were stifled before they could reach the ear of the distant monarch. At the commencement of the Spanish settlement in South America a certain number of Indians was assigned to each landholder, somewhat after the manner in which the Russians are disposed of at the sale of the estate on which they may live. This gave the proprietor power over the persons of the natives, which soon matured into a system of the most oppressive tyranny. In the master avarice extinguished humanity, and his slaves were used rather like brutes than like men. Under this ironhearted cruelty these unprotected sufferers wasted away with so frightful a rapidity that, after millions of them had sunk into a premature grave, and fears were entertained that the entire race would become extinct, they were raised in some of the colonies to the rank VOL. X.-July, 1839.
of citizens. This, however, instead of raising them to a state of liberty, only changed the circumstances of their bondage; they passed from under the hand of private to that of public oppression.
In this new relation to the state there was denianded of them an amount of tribute which was often entirely beyond their ability, which involved them in more fearful calamities than any with which their former state had threatened them. Of their sufferings, the bistory of Peru furnishes a most affecting picture. This viceroyalty was divided into fifty-eight provinces. Over each of these was placed a pretor, who was invested with the power of judging and punishing civil and criminal offences, in the name of the king. He, being authorized to impose a heavy tax on each Indian, not younger than eighteen or older than fifty-five, did not scruple to demand it of such as were both much below and far above these ages. The law also exempted all caciques with their families, and such In. dians as were corporeally infirm and mentally deficient. But these enjoyed no exemption from the exorbitant claims of the pretor. On the old and the young, the healthy and the invalid, he imposed alike the enormous tax; and in every case where his receipt was lost, the Indian was imperatively required to meet the same claim the second time. To prevent the aged and infirm from being cruelly scourged by these merciless collectors for unavoidable delinquency, brothers and friends tasked themselves doubly, and often sunk under this insupportable burden.
In the event the Indian could not advance the required sum, whatever could be found in his hut was sacrificed to raise it; and when there was too little for the purpose, he was compelled to labor at so reduced a price that he could scarcely cancel the claims of one year before those of another became due; and not unfrequently did his miseries end his days before the iron grasp of his oppressor had been unloosed.
Another source of Indian sufferings originated in the liberty which the pretors obtained to distribute goods among the natives, under the pretence of promoting habits of diligence. History never recorded a more horrible system of oppression and tyranny than that into which this was matured by these official merchants. The legal right which they had to dispense such goods as they pleasedto fix upon them their own price—to sell them without the consent of the receiver-and to obtain payment by coercion-opened a door for boundless extortion and the most insupportable tyranny, When these men entered on their office they purchased, at a reduced price, a large amount of unsaleable goods, which they disposed of to the Indians-against their loudest remonstrances—at six or eight times the primary price! In vain did these miserable beings urge, with tears, that they could not pay for such articles—that they did not need them—that they knew not even the use of them. All their most humble and earnest beseechings to be released from this necessity were unheeded; the goods they must take, though many of them were not less unsuitable to their state than the finest Turkey carpets would have been to their floorless hovels.
One part of this system of insult and robbery consisted in the distribution of mules among the natives. Of these each pretor procured five or six hundred, and sold them to the Indians for four or five times their value, under circumstances in which they could neither be hired without his consent, or withheld when he called for them. Hence when a merchant needed mules to transport his goods bis application was not to the proprietor, but to the pretor, who always commanded such Indians to perform the journey as were most deeply in his debt. Aiter the pretor had received the transportation money, he refunded one-fourth of it to the merchant, to be applied in feeding the mules; one half of it was allowed toward the debt originating in the purchase of the animals; oneeighth was to answer on the unavoidable debt for the goods forced on them; and the remaining one-eighth went to the owners of the mules to defray their expenses during the tour. But as this was scarcely sufficient for the unavoidable demands of the journey, whenever an accident occurred it fell in its whole weight on the Indians. When a few mules failed or died—which was generally the case, on these long and rugged journeys—their owners were ruined; but the ruthless pretor relaxed none of his claims.
These are but a small part of the practical bearing of that barbarous system by which the pretors wasted and crushed this unhappy race. Nor was the lot of the other class of Indians, who were hired to landholders, less wretched. These received from $14 to $18 per annum, and the use of a garden thirty or forty yards in extent. The tribute demanded of each was $8, which left not more than $10 for the support of bis family; $7 of this small pittance was expended for corn, and the balance was indispensable for the coarse covering which clothed him. Then the claims of the curate remained to be met, so that the laborer unavoidably involved himself in debt to his employer; and while this was the case, the creditor had control over his person. As years rolled on the debt accumulated, which made his life and slavery commensurate; and often after his demise his children were compelled, by the greatest drudgery, to cancel the inevitable debt of their father.
If a member of his family died, the father was overwhelmed with the utmost consternation. Believing, as he did, that the agonizing soul of the deceased could enjoy no repose until the ecclesiastical services were paid for, no personal sacrifice was deemed too pain. ful to procure the requisite sum. Thus superstition conspired with avarice to consummate the wretchedness of their victims.
Such as failed to meet the claims of the pretor were doomed to a fate still more severe. After being dragged to the manufactories, they were compelled to labor for one real per day; one half of which went to liquidate that officer's claim, and the other half to procure food for the laborer. As this was furnished by the employer, it often consisted of damaged grain and diseased animals; and the quantity even of this wretched fare was far below a competency. When any by flight sought release from this living death, they were soon overtaken by the pursuer, and dragged back, with their hair tied to his horse's tail. The punishments inflicted on them in the event of any delinquency was of the severest character. Every species of torments which the wanton cruelty of an easily enraged overseer could invent was endured by these patient sufferers. When other means failed to satisfy his ire, two burning sticks were so rubbed together as to emit showers of sparks on the
naked back of the delinquent, who was firmly bound with his face to the earth.
But, of all the means by which havoc was made of this trampled race, none have been so fearfully successful as their servitude in the mines. A legal regulation existed, called the mita, by which every proprietor of lands and mines claimed the personal services of a certain number of Indians for the space of a year. This fund of human labor was so regulated as to procure annually, by ballot, a sufficient number of Indians for the various work assigned them. So dreaded were the services of the mines, that those on whom the lot fell considered their summons to the work equivalent to the sentence of death. Before they went to that sepulchre of their nation every preparation was made as though they were never again to return. The weeping farewells which rung through their cottages at their separation from their friends and homes resembled the doleful scenes of a dying hour.
When the labors of the year were finished, they found themselves in debt to their employer; as he was responsible for $8 tribute imposed on each Indian, and furnished his laborers with their miserable food and lodging, their wages were absorbed, and future services still due. While they remained in arrears to their employer, they could not leave his service. Thus each succeeding year accumulated their unavoidable debt till all hope of release fled for ever; but more frequently death freed the sufferer before the first year revolved. Exchanging the delightful air and health-preserving exercise of his own native mountains, for the noxious vapors and exhausting labors of the mines, the Indian soon began to pine under disease; and, after a few months, frequently sunk spirit-broken into an untimely grave. Then the desolate widow, with her bereaved children, were thrown back to their empty hut, to bleed over remembered wrongs which had murdered a father and a husband !
Nor were these instances of oppressed humanity few or unfrequent; more than twelve thousand of this enslaved race were annually subject to this mita-conscription in Potosi aione. In this single mountain, where nearly five thousand mines have been opened, not less than one million three hundred thousand Indians have sunk into the grave under this iron rod of tyranny! Who then shall draw the terrific picture of Indian suffering endured in all the mines in the new world. The stream of gold and silver which was poured for three centuries from South America into the parent state was chiefly extracted from the mountains by this suffering race, and has gone to Spain stained with their blood, which cries to Heaven for retributive justice.
But this bloody work of extermination was urged forward by other means than the pestiferous vapors of the mines. Marauding parties from Brazil depopulated thousands of miles in search of natives, for the purpose of supplying that empire with slaves. These merciless man-hunters, more savage than the tribes they wasted in every expedition, added murder to the crime of manstealing. Their captives were bound together, and driven, like herds of cattle, through storms and streams, often fainting with hunger, and famishing with thirst. Those that became too much exhausted to advance with the company were shot to the ground, or cut down
with the sword. If infants obstructed the march, they were torn from their mothers' breasts, and dashed before their eyes! In this ferocious manner three hundred thousand were hunted down within the brief period of five years; and in the short space between 1628 and 1630 six hundred thousand were dragged from their homes, and sold in Rio for slaves.
In examining the various records of inhumanity and blood, which extend through one hundred and thirty years, not less than two millions are found to have been sold for slaves, or cruelly murdered, by these kidnappers. Thus four hundred Indian towns were left one vast solitude, covered only with the ruins of deserted dwellings, and stained with the blood of their former inhabitants.
But our limits preclude the detail of that almost endless variety of miseries which were inflicted on this unfortunate people. These would form a volume of history, and awaken the deepest sympathy. Were we to pass in silence the facts, that the means of subsistence enjoyed by Europeans in South America were procured by the personal labor of the Indians; that the treasures of immense wealth, possessed by thousands prior to the revolution, were opened by them; that the numberless flocks and herds which filled the valleys and whitened the hills of their oppressors were raised and guarded by them; and that scarcely a vestige of this vast amount remains with this beggared race; still would their history form an agitating record at which humanity would shudder.
It has been alleged in behalf of the inflicters of all these various sufferings on the Indians, that they brought to them the knowledge of Christianity. Had they indeed done this in the high and significant import of these terms, it would have arrayed them before coming generations in the glory of the most benignant benefactors. But did they do this? The instruments of divine mercy could not have come to these pagan nations, bearing the torch of a Saviour's dying love in one hand, and fetters by which to load them for ever, in the other. If the most faithful historical records deserve our confi. dence, we are compelled to believe that the conquerors of South America brought no religion to its ancient inhabitants, but such as would best subserve the purposes of their ambition, and most effectually enslave the millions they had conquered. The ecclesiastical establishment was evidently instituted in these colonies as an auxiliary to the civil government. It was employed not to diffuse intelligence among these children of nature-not to elevate from its deep degradation this rude mass of pagan mind; but as a mighty engine of power, by which tyranny could sway a more absolute control. The priest was so necessary to the magistrate that civil power was never wanting to effectuate the selfish plans which the hierarchy might originate. Hence many of the clergy in Mexico and Peru became masters of the most princely fortunes. They did not feed the flock, but they fleeced it.
As a specimen of their rapacity, one or two well-authenticated instances may be here adduced :-A curate in Quito exacted for each year, exclusive of his dues and fees, two hundred sheep, six thousand head of poultry, four thousand pigs, and fifty thousand eggs. To insure the payment of this enormous claim, he refused the masses on the respective festivals until a due proportion of it